Yesterday, my Dad came back. He had to go home for over two weeks because of work, but now he’s back and I thought my mother would be happy about it, but she seems quite the opposite. It makes me second guess my theory about them trying for another baby, which makes me nervous that my mother will find out I stole her pills. Or maybe she already knows and she’s simply letting me be, understanding my age and responsibility, and not wanting to embarrass me for no reason. She’s probably proud that I’m being safe.
I wonder why they’re upset with each other. We went out for dinner to welcome him back, but my mother didn’t eat much. Whenever I would try to change the topic or cheer her up, she would give me a small smile and ask basic questions about work and Brandon.
When we got home from the restaurant, my Dad went straight to bed and my Mother stayed alone in the living room watching television. Feeling guilty, I sat with her and talked about Brandon, which is highly unlikely of me to do—talk about my odd love life to anyone, especially my mother. It seemed to help her out of her funk, so I bore through it.
Brandon and I have been getting closer, which causes me to think about our inevitable end. At work, he’ll look over and wink, and of course, I can’t help but feel all giddy. The Emma from a few weeks ago would be toppled over, sick if she knew what I was up to. I told Jonas I would change—at the time I was just saying what he wanted to hear, not sure if I actually could—but now I’m noticing differences—hence the giddy feeling instead of sending a glare at him.
For the last three days after work (besides yesterday), Brandon and I have been spending time together at Jonas’/his temporary house. We often find ourselves alone as Jonas is busy chasing Presley or hanging out with Lauren, who I refuse to speak to. She texts me almost every day, asking to talk things through. I feel like I can’t trust her anymore which sucks because she’s the only girl friend I have here, the only one who I can be brutally honest with when it comes to my feelings.
Brandon and I usually end up kissing on the couch or swimming in the pool—which led to me keeping a swimsuit at the house. Swimming in the pool usually leads to kissing in the pool, but we haven’t gone past that.
Maybe it’s because we aren’t official. We don’t call each other boyfriend and girlfriend, we haven’t labeled our relationship. Or maybe he’s just not sure if I want to take that step—or maybe he doesn’t want to. Brandon is the most gentlemanly guy I’ve been with, so he must be waiting for a conversation about it first. I’m sure he knows I’m not a virgin, and I’m as positive as a pregnant woman that Brandon isn’t one either.
Is it too soon to even think about this? Am I some horn-dog for wanting to?
Peering up from the counter, I try to wipe my thoughts out of my mind at the sight of him. “Yeah?”
“Time to lock up,” he says, holding up the keys.
I wait on the sidewalk while Brandon makes sure everything is secure. A little nervous to go to Jonas’ again, I ask, “Are you going to walk me home?” Rocking on my feet, I try to stay playful and not show my awkwardness.
“I should, shouldn’t I? I mean, you know how dangerous these streets get after the sun goes down.”
I smile and tilt in the direction of my Aunts house, giving Brandon enough time to catch up. We walk together, each time getting closer and closer. By now our arms are nearly brushing against each others. “My Dad came back yesterday. I have a dad, and a mom, too.” Brandon glances down at me, understanding where I’m going with this. “I’m an only child, though. We come here every summer and stay with my Aunt who you already met with my Mom. We live in Sacramento. Oh, and Brandon?”
“My name is Emma Lynn Conway,” I say, looking up at him. “I thought you should know.”
“I should know.”
We come up to the house and I turn to him when we reach the path to the porch. “I’m not working tomorrow, I won’t see you. I guess you’ll have to handle working a day without—”
Interrupted but not caring, I say softly, “Yes?”
My eyes follow him until they close as he leans in and kisses me goodnight. Staying close, he says, “Brandon Sean Everett.”
“Okay,” I murmur.
Our eyes connect for a moment before he pulls away, waiting until I’m in the house before walking off. With shaking hands, I sloppily unlock the door and slip inside, falling closed with it, not daring to peek out the window. I release a breath and head to my room, noticing that my parent’s bedroom’s light is on and the door is closed. The sun is setting, giving everything warm tones as it pours through the windows.
I grab my towels and pajamas, wanting to shower. Walking to the bathroom which is beside their room, I hear hushed shouting, fueled whispers that draw me in closer. With my ear almost touching the door, I listen.
“You said you wouldn’t do this.” My mother. “You said you would wait until we’re back home.”
“We don’t get along, Val. We don’t get along. We shouldn’t be around each other.” My Dad.
“We would. We would if you didn’t—”
“Enough, Val. I’m leaving tomorrow, you can tell Emma whatever the hell you want.”
“Don’t do this to her. She’s fragile, Mike, it’ll break her heart.”
“She’s fragile or you’re fragile?”
The sudden sound of something heavy falling to the floor makes my heart jolt. “You’ve been sleeping with someone else! You expect me to not be hurt when I find out my husband of twenty years has been cheating on me? You expect me to just let this all go? Everything we’ve built together? Our family? You’re ruining my life! You’re ruining your daughter’s life!”
“We should never have had a kid, and you know it.”
“You’re insane, Mike! You’re evil. You’re an evil person. And now what? You’re just going to dump us and run off with her? You’re just going to act like we never existed?”
“We shouldn’t be together, Val!”
“Yeah, well I didn’t know that! I didn’t know that until yesterday when you told me that you’re seeing another fucking woman! I didn’t know! Everything was fine to me!”
“I’m unhappy. I’ve been unhappy.”
“So why didn’t you tell me! Why did you cheat and lie to my face! You could’ve just told me!”
“I’m leaving. I’ll go to a hotel and get my things tomorrow.”
“You’re ruining everything we have, Mike. Mike, you’re ruining everything. You’re ruining our lives.”
“Everything we have is bull shit and you know it.”
“What about your daughter? What are you going to tell her, huh? You’re going to tell her that you’ve been sleeping with another woman and that you’re leaving us for her? You’re going to tell your daughter that?”
“She’s eighteen, Val.”
“She’s your daughter! She thinks you love her!”
“I do love her! Don’t you tell me that. It’s you I don’t love anymore.”
“Get out! Get out of this house!”
Running to the bathroom, I swiftly shut the door and lock it, leaving the light off and keeping quiet. I listen as their door opens and as, I assume, my father walks out of the house. After the front door slams shut, my mother yanks the bedroom door shut. Not wanting to hear her cry, I turn on the shower. Not wanting anyone to hear me cry, I get in.
I sit in the tub and let the shower rain down on me, knowing that this is the end to something big. Overwhelmed by his words and by my mother’s, I give myself a headache from trying to comprehend it all. There is one fact that sticks out and stares me in the face. My father broke my mother’s heart.
I lose track of time and my fingers grow wrinkled, no longer shedding tears but nothing at all. I feel like I am trapped in a fish tank, swimming into walls. Everywhere I turn is the same inevitable end, and every time I face it alone. Abandonment seems to be the highlighted theme in my life, and it’s one I wouldn’t wish on anyone. So now what? I watch as my parents fall apart, continuing to distract myself with Brandon—a relationship that is bound to end no better than theirs? I go along with life and ignore my blatant curse? The only other option would be to give up and break things off, isolate myself once again, all while saying bye bye to Daddy. Maybe I should seek advice, then. But the only person I feel I have left is Brandon. Talking to my mother would be like talking to myself, and I do that enough.
Shutting off the shower, I get up and dry myself off, avoiding the mirror and my puffy, red face. Dressed for bed, I lock my bedroom door behind me and turn off the light, laying down knowing sleep won’t come. I wonder where my Dad has gone. What hotel. What he’s thinking. If he regrets his decisions. We’ve never been very close but he’s still my father. I would hate to marry someone, believing my curse is imaginary, then face something as destructive as this years later. I wonder what my Mom is thinking. If she regrets her decisions.
In the morning the house is quiet, still and empty, making me feel like the apocalypse has started. Having slept as deep as a restless baby, I stay in bed for a while, trying to fall back asleep but failing. I am right, when I leave my room and wander around the house, I find no one. I didn’t expect to see my dad, but I wonder where Aunt Wendy and my mother went. She must know, she must have heard the yelling as I did.
Numb, I grab a box of sugary cereal and eat from my hand, sitting down at the dining table, bringing my legs up and crossing them. Stretching my arm out to the center of the table, I rest my head down on it and drop the box of cereal on its side, picking up and popping the spilling pieces in my mouth. The crunch is all I hear besides the birds outside. I wish I had work today, I wish I had something to keep me busy as my mother has her sister. At the shop, I have to put on a customer-friendly face and act, and it takes me away from the grumpy, hurting girl inside.
On a limb, I change after eating enough cereal, leaving the house and walking to Jonas’. The sun is bright and cleansing by the time I leave, much better than the dullness of the house. There’s a chance that Brandon is home, so I figure that I’ll share my devastating news like a normal person would.
I walk up the path and reach the door, ringing the bell and hearing the sound of footsteps grow louder. It opens and Jonas—still in the clothes he slept in—looks surprised to see me. “Emma? What are you doing here, it’s like ten o’clock?”
“Is Brandon home?”
“He left about an hour ago.”
Confused, I ask, “For work?”
“No. His brother is coming down for the day with his mom, he’s gone to spend the day with them. They’ll probably be around the beach.”
“Why? What’s going on with you two?”
“Oh, not much. I was just—”
Reading me like a fashion magazine, Jonas says, “You know, if you need someone to talk to, I’m here. Don’t worry, Lauren isn’t hiding behind a corner or something.”
Ready to come up with an excuse, I stop myself and remember that Jonas has never done anything to me. He’s always been a good friend, someone I should trust. “Well, I, something did happen, actually. Something really bad.”
Without hesitation, Jonas welcomes me in.